When you hear about a luncheon and tea with over 200 women who listened to a talk given by a former participant in the TV show, Top Model, one might be surprised to discover that the main focus of the talk was a message of faith, morals, and the importance of true love. Leah Darrow, the keynote speaker, shared the journey of her return to the Catholic faith and described the story of her transformation from a way of worldly, self-introspected view, to a view that left her focused on Him Who is the only One capable of filling us with all that is good.
The guests at the Winter Tea at Saint Joseph’s Campus heard many remarkable moments of Leah Darrow’s life. Her journey back to her real home, the Catholic Church, inspired listeners to view their definition of love. For years of her life, Leah struggled without knowing the true definition of love and often filled this void with imitations or distractions. Whether it was relationships or her modeling career, the voids in Leah’s life could not be filled with the things of this world. Her appearance on the TV show, America’s Next Top Model, led her to a photo shoot that changed her life. During this photo shoot she distinctly remembers blinking and seeing herself bring her hands together and raise them to a man in front of her. She remembers seeing the face of the man, which caused her to look at her hands. Realizing they were empty, that she had nothing to offer, she suddenly realized that something was wrong. The lies that she had been telling herself no longer were sufficient and she left the photo shoot, despite the protest of the photographers and others on the set. With a tear-stained face, she returned to her apartment where she called her father who drove over 2,000 miles from Saint Louis, Missouri to come and bring his daughter home. Little did she know at the time that his intention was to bring her home, not primarily home to Saint Louis, but home to the Catholic Church. The very day that he arrived, he took her to St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church to go to Confession, where she left with a feeling of peace that she had never known before.
Leah continued to tell the guests at the Winter Tea about the months and years following her return home. The way that she viewed herself, others, and even fashion was changed, in order to reflect her new-found life of faith. Leah described some of these changes in her fashion and reminded those present that the way that we dress can be a good indication of where we are in life. She said that if someone saw a Carmelite Sister come into the room, even if that person was not Catholic or even Christian, he or she would know that the Sister loved God. In the same way, our fashion, the way that we dress, should be a reflection of the dignity and respect that we deserve. Leah gave very practical answers to questions regarding ways to be modest, yet fashionable.
Mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, and young women left the Winter Tea with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the dignity of their true beauty as children of God. Leah helped guests to see that a glamorous lifestyle and even modeling will not make someone feel complete, nor should it define who we really are. Instead, our focus should be on the love of Christ. One Sister who was present at the Tea said, “Leah is fully alive and motivates people to want to be fully in love with Christ.” This love for Christ and of Christ should be the sole purpose and source of strength in our lives, helping us to overcome obstacles and to continue on our journey home.